Proposed city budget keeps tax rate same

City Council reviews proposal in work session Monday night

Webster City officials are working on a proposed 2019-2020 budget that keeps the property tax rate steady while retaining all services at current levels.

But looming over the budget preparations is the possibility of spending $35 million to build a new wastewater treatment plant.

The City Council discussed the budget Monday night during a workshop session. The elected officials did not recommend any changes to the spending blueprint presented by Interim City Manager Kent Harfst and Finance Director Dodie Wolfgram.

The budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 must be approved by mid-March to comply with state law.

The budget proposal anticipates spending $25,179,040.

It includes a property tax rate of $16.24 per $1,000 of taxable value. That’s unchanged from the current levy.

That levy is just for the city government. Hamilton County, Webster City Community School District and Iowa Central Community College all have separate property tax levies.

The budget also includes a 1 percent increase in electric utility rates that was previously approved by the council.

The biggest expenditure category is $2,529,810 for public safety, which includes the police and fire departments and building inspections.

One of the healthiest accounts in the city budget is the road use tax fund, which is the city’s share of gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees. That money can only be spent on streets, sidewalks and bridges.

According to Wolfgram, there is a $2 million balance in the road use tax fund, and she is recommending spending some of that money before state officials start asking why Webster City has so much in that account.

”We can do some bigger projects now,” she said.

As the elected officials dug into the budget details it became apparent that while the general fund is balanced, money is tight, especially for equipment purchases. That prompted Councilman Jim Talbot to ask how the city could afford to give $15,000 to All Cultures Equal last year if there is a shortfall of money for things like new police vehicles.

”The logic is not there,” he said.

Mayor John Hawkins said the $15,000 did not come from the capital equipment fund that pays for vehicles.

The proposed budget doesn’t include money for the new wastewater treatment plant. However, after the meeting Hawkins said some action will be needed on the new plant soon so that the city can comply with new environmental regulations in 2021.

The city’s current wastewater treatment plant on Ohio Street was built in 1939 and was last updated in the late 1990s.

The city has purchased land south of U.S. Highway 20 for a new wastewater treatment plant. The site is southeast of the water tower that’s easily seen from the highway.

Engineers have estimated the cost of the new plant at $35 million.

City officials haven’t determined how to pay that cost. Hawkins said there are a couple of options, including a state loan with a 2 percent interest rate or revenue bonds issued by the city.

The proposed 2019-2020 budget for

Webster City calls for spending $25,179,040.

Major expenditure classes include:

• Public safety – $2,529,810

• Public works – $1,881,579

• Culture and recreation – $1,817,597

• Capital projects – $1,480,411

• Debt service – $818,501

• General government – $384,415

• Community and economic development – $315,568

• Health and social services – $57,235

Proposed Property Tax Rate

The proposed property tax rate for Webster City in 2019-2020 is $16.24 per $1,000 of taxable value.

That levy is divided into the following categories:

• $8.10 for the general fund, which pays for police and fire protection, recreation costs not covered by fees and many other government programs

• $5.11 for employee benefits

• $2.08 for paying off general obligation bond debt

• 27 cents for the airport

• 27 cents to help balance the general fund

• 22 cents for liability and property insurance

• 14 cents for maintaining a civic center

• 6 cents for public transit

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